Thursday, January 24, 2008

Crazy for God

Today I finished Frank Schaeffer's book about growing up in the shadow of his famous parents. As I've read the book, it stirred-up many emotions and conflicts. One part of me was saddened by the revelations of the "feet of clay" both Francis and Edith Schaeffer hid so well from public view. Part of me cringed at Frank's, well, frankness, about his life, including more details about his sex life than I really cared to know. Another part was shocked by the revelations Frank made about the evangelical rise to power in the U.S., and the role he and his father played in it. Part of me was nodding my head and wondering how so many Christians in this country came to be so completely duped by the power-hungry, exclusivist, narrow-minded, greedy "Christian" demi-gods posing as leaders. Part of me saw myself and my faith journey all tied up in that "plastic Christian" world of evangelical super-stars. And part of me wondered how much credibility Frank Schaeffer had left, and how much I need to take with a grain of salt.

The Author's Note:
I'm sure I have placed some of the events in the wrong years or have written that something happened in one place when it happened in another. this is a memoir, not a biography. To footnote this story or to have done research into dates and places and to correct the chronology would have been to indulge the conceit that my book is objective history. It is not. What I've written comes from a memory deformed by time, prejudice, flawed recall, and emotion.

Several places in the Schaeffer repeats this in some way or another, just to let us know he knows these are his experiences and memories, and not rigid history. I appreciate his confession and the recognition of this often over-looked truth. On the other hand, the book is still mostly written as a fact-filled look at not just Frank's life, but at the characters of many evangelical leaders. Because of that, I find myself keeping some of his observations at arm's length. I don't doubt the very negative opinion he has of James Dobson, among others, is true to his experience. I simply reserve the right to nuance Frank's view with the experiences of others.

Frank Schaeffer's book is an important read, even if it isn't always pleasant or comfortable. It will make many people mad. It will help other's feel vindicated. It will confuse some people because they will try to be like Jane Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, who tried to find a way to make both Darcy and Wickham come out virtuous in their conflict. The problem is, there is no completely virtuous character in this book, or in real life. Life is messy, and Crazy for God shows one person's life at its messiest.

The look at the pro-life movement and how the Democratic Party blew the chance to gain credibility when it hardened its stance on abortion was fascinating, and perhaps some of the best information in the book. The look at how pro-life ended up a Republican party plank is so informative. Especially considering this was a "Catholic" issue for so long and most Catholics were Democrats.

How am I feeling now after I've thought about the book for a while? I don't know where I am theologically, but I know that even if I agree on specifics (like the sanctity of life) evangelical leaders don't speak for me anymore. This book only confirmed what I've been seeing for a while. Along the way someone (more than one, of course) co-opted Christianity, narrowed its scope, set the rules in stone, and built walls to exclude people and concentrate power...all in the name of "purity" and "godliness."

So take a deep breath and plunge in. It's not so much refreshing as cathartic.

On another note: I don't know much about writing, but I found Franky's book to be unevenly written and unnecessarily confusing in its timeline. It somehow fits his volatile personality. ;-) I plan to get some of his fiction to see how that reads.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Catching up...

Well, if anyone is still out there reading, I thought I'd catch you up on a few things in my life. First off, I'm failing at my New Year's Resolution to write more! ;-) Oh well!

My teaching duties (one class, one day a week) started back on the 5th of January. the past two weeks I've been teaching my class (middle school Life Science) and substituting for the teacher in the middle school Physical Science class. It's been fun. I taught most of the students in that class last year, and will probably have most of them in Biology next fall. The double preps have taken a bit more time, especially since physical science (in this case light, color and color mixing) isn't my area of knowledge. However, it's been fun to rediscover it all.

I'm also in the process of finding a book to use for my high school Biology class in the fall. The book we've been using is 7 or 8 years old now. It was published before the Human Genome Project, so I want something more up-to-date. I am looking at two possibilities right now, neither which totally thrill me. When i settle on a book I need to start prepping for the fall-- reading and making class notes, and developing my labs to go with each lesson. Hopefully I can use a lot of the labs I have now.

We decided to adopt a cat from a rescue group in our area, and ended up with two! They are both adults (1 yr old and 2 yrs old). One is a a solid grey with a white bib, several white paws, and a cute little white "comma" that goes over his nose. His name is Jasper Darlington Higgins IV. The other is a soft grey tabby with buff (very light orange) markings, plus a white bib and white toes. His name is Fiddlesticks. (If you have ever read The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede, you'll recognize the names as two of Morwen's cats.) Jasper has big round amber eyes, while Fiddles has slanted, almond-shaped eyes.

Both cats have been living in our bedroom since Sunday afternoon. They are good cats, but we haven't gotten a great deal of sleep. They're exceptionally sweet and affectionate. They purr when you look at them! Unfortunately this means that at 4 a.m. they're ready to snuggle and be petted, so they wake us up. I'm hoping we can let them have the run of the house soon.

They are "bomb-proof," meaning they don't get upset about much. They showed slight interest in our dog, and have been totally nonchalant with our resident cat, Neko. Unfortunately, to date Neko is anything but nonchalant about them! He is one angry cat. When he sees them (which has been rare, since we're trying to introduce them slowly), he puffs all his hair out to twice his normal size. this is impressive, since he is already a really large cat, weighing in at 15.5 lbs. The two cats we adopted are about 8 to 10 lbs. (In other words, normal cat size.)

Cookie, the dog, is great friends with the cats now. She was incredibly interested in them, but mostly I think she wanted to be where the action was. She always stays in my room with me when I am working or watching TV. So when the cats came, she didn't want to be left out in the hall. I think she decided that getting along with the cats meant being with us.

Yesterday was my anniversary! (24 years) It was a really busy carpool-and-school day, so we didn't celebrate, but Will brought me a card and a stuffed Beanie Baby race horse! :-D Hannah and the kids bought us a beautiful bouquet of roses. I was so surprised and pleased. This coming weekend Will and I have tickets to an art exhibit (Landscapes int he Age of Impressionism), and plan to be gone for the weekend. Our next door neighbor gave us a gift card this Christmas good for several area restaurants. Will and I plan to use that next weekend as well. (I take care of their animals when they go out of town, so this was a "thank you" gift.) We plan to take in at least one movie, too.

I'm reading Crazy for God by Frank Schaeffer and enjoying it. He shoots from the hip, but doesn't pretend that his views aren't biased. I am enjoying his sometimes brutal honesty, but I am also enjoying the obvious love and respect he had for his parents, too. I plan to post some quotes from the book if I have time. Having been to Swiss L'Abri in the mid-70's, I am very aware of the atmosphere and attitudes he describes.

We've been working through some of the videos we got for Christmas. Most are re-watches, like Transformers, Harry Potter 5, and Stardust. But I have a few that I've never seen, so I'm looking forward to those.

I hope you're year is going well so far!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Resolutions??

I've never done New Year's resolutions. So maybe I'll try to come up with a few this year.

This year I want to:

1. Figure out how to work my digital camera: how to upload pictures so I can share them. Maybe do the 365 Photoblog. (Although I need to get on with that if I'm going to do it!)

2. Spend more time listening to music. I've had a great time the last two days uploading several dozen CDs onto my iPod, and even buying some new ones at B&N or on iTunes. I'm rediscovering old favorites I hadn't listened to in years (like Led Zeppelin) and trying on some new ones (like Bush, Cake, and Death Cab for Cutie). It's so much fun.

3. Get more exercise. 'Nuff said.

4. Spend less "screen time" in the evenings- watching TV or on my computer. Read more and spend more time with the kids. (Although that may mean learning to play Wii games, and more screen time.)

5. Read the Bible. I've joined and online group reading through The Bible in three years. The plan is to read a selection each month and then ahve a day for discussion. I'm hoping the slower pace and the accountability will help me stay on track.

6. Read more. I've slacked off in the past two years and I'm not sure why.

7. Pray more, even if it doesn't look like my former idea of prayer.

8. Get involved in some real, tangible ways of helping others.

9. Try and stay within our budget.

10. Be flexible about my life. I want to try to hold plans loosely so that changes don't throw me for a loop.

11. To do a better job writing down my thoughts instead of keeping them in my head. Writing them down takes more discipline and time, but I think it will be well worth it.

That ought to keep me busy for the next year! We'll see in a year how I've done.

Happy New Year!